Opening Words from Sun. March 8 by Linda Locke

March 9, 2020

Salaam wuallakum!

Ahh, some of you know how to answer that. Let’s practice. When I say “salaam wu-allakum,” you respond, “Wu allakum salaam.”


Opening Words from Sun. February 23 by Ellen Wright

February 23, 2020

I come before you today a bit ragged as it is the day after the Youth Group Dinner dance. The teens of our community selected a theme, formed committees, made plans and executed those plans to create a space for fantasy, food and fun. Every year a different group of people learn together what it takes to pull off such an event. They try things they have never tried before, reach out of their comfort zones, solve problems and collaborate. This is my favorite part of dinner dance.


Opening Words from Sun. February 16 by David Brown: “Ethical Society Adopted Refugee Families”

February 16, 2020

Last Sunday’s Platform Speaker was Anna Crosslin, President and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis. She told of the Institute’s work helping immigrants and refugees learn how to live and prosper in the St. Louis area with a goal of making good U.S. citizens of them.

For the last three years, some of us from the Ethical Society have volunteered at the Institute as a group representing the Society or as individuals. I want to tell you about one of those volunteer efforts.


Opening Words from Sun. February 9 by Ray Preston

February 9, 2020

Playing: The Beatles “All You Need is Love.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I like this song. I really like this song.

I like John, Paul, George & Ringo.


Opening Words from Sun. February 2 by Amanda Verbeck and Krystal White

February 3, 2020

A: Good morning. I’m Amanda Verbeck, your current Board President.

K: And I’m Krystal White, this year’s Past President. President-Elect Stephanie Sigala is downstairs in the kitchen, getting things ready for our pledge lunch today!  


Wizard of Oz Silent Auction

January 29, 2020
Category: ,

Do you have something you can contribute to our silent auction? A time-share you are willing to share one time, a talent you are willing to offer lessons in or contribute objects from, baskets, artwork, gift cards, a business that can make a contribution? Something I have not mentioned but you are willing to contribute.

The Youth Group is sponsoring a Silent Auction during our annual dinner dance on February 22, 2020. We are continuing this fundraiser as our effort to contribute back to the society for the money they have budgeted for our participation in YES. The funds we raise go back into the general budget.

The funds from the society are used to help offset the cost of the YES conference. Those costs can be very significant, especially for families with 2 or more children in the group.

We will greatly appreciate your contributions. If you have something you wish to offer please contact us at

Opening Words from Sun. January 19 by Stephanie Sigala

January 19, 2020

As some of you know, I am the Pledge Chair for 2020. Don’t worry. I am not going to nag you about increasing your pledge. I want to talk a little bit about inspiration today.

Every so often I feel burned out. There are days when life is the pits and I am a cranky witch. Hard to believe, isn’t it? When that happens on Sunday, coming to Ethical is my cranky witch antidote. I don’t have kids so every Sunday I get my weekly dose of kid cuteness with the kids who say the Core Values. And the Core Values themselves are something that really inspire me. I know you have them memorized, right? This is a test.


Art Show – David Ottinger, Jane Linders, and Christine Ilewski

January 8, 2020

David Ottinger

In a speech from the spring of 2016, I tried to sum up the essence of what I feel every artist tries to accomplish. I stated, “Only that which redefines the definition of the word has any chance to become that which it pretends to define.”

It is certainly no simple task to change the definition of a word. However, every great artist throughout history has done just that. Jackson Pollack, Camille Pissarro and Leonardo Da Vinci changed the definition of painting. Donatello (Donato di Nicocolò di Betto Bardi) and Donald Judd and Kara Walker changed the definition of sculpture. David Octavius Hill and Edward Stieglitz and Cindy Sherman changed photography.

As a student I was enthralled with two topics, art and psychology. At times I try to bring the two together in the same conversation. Though I taught Figure Drawing, Painting and Art History for decades, I am still enchanted with the idea of bringing psychology and painting together in a way that tries to define the moment when an individual makes a decision or comes to a realization about a dilemma or idea.

It is the search for that indefinable idea that intrigues me the most and of course, is the most elusive.

Jane Linders

Jane Linders is an award winning photographer whose prints are in numerous national and international collections.   Linders has exhibited her work everywhere from her home town in St. Louis to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.  She is a tireless imagemaker who mines the oddities of roadside America.

After several years of traditional photography, I began to experiment with infrared photography because I enjoy the otherworldly quality of the image.  My photos are not an in-your-face kind of intensity, but a gentle, matter of fact, I am here and I have always been here kind of statement, that builds the more your look at my image.    Infrared photography broadened my photographic notions and expanded my creativity.  I like how beautifully infrared light is reflected and absorbed by different surfaces.  This non traditional photography allowed me to capture traditional subjects in a novel and interesting way. My major influence is the work of William Eggleston, who creates art from commonplace subjects and finds beauty in the banal and mundane.  

Christine Ilewski

Christine Ilewski lives in Alton, IL. She received her BFA from the Univ. of WI-Eau Claire, did masters work at Lindenwood Univ. and SIUE where she completed K-12 teaching certification. She taught in the U-City school district. She has been the Visting Artist for Liquitex for 20 years, bringing a materials and methods workshop to university campuses around the midwest.

Her studio work is primarily acrylic with multiple mixed media elements. She describes her current work: “My work has always been “personal.” My work has reflected my experience as a woman, a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter; a domestic, intimate life. Landscape has almost always been the background to my narratives, but in my most recent work it seems to have become my center…a place of reflection, a still point from which everything else revolves. These landscapes are bubbling up from a subconscious stream, a “river” of relationships. With a studio overlooking the Mississippi, the mighty river runs through all my work. “

She is also the founder/director of the nonprofit Faces Not Forgotten ( , a memorial project of portaits of young gun violence victims. Christine was awarded the 2013 Critical Mass Stimulus Grant for this project and has exhibited the project throughout St. Louis and the campuses of UMSL, Rutgers, Northeastern and Blackburn universities. BBC America did a piece on FNF in 2017.

Her studio work can be seen in the IL state Artisan shops, the Museum of Contemporary Art, New Harmony, Ariodante Gallery NOLA and many private collections.  618-806-6747

This group show will run from January 26 through March 9, with a reception on Sunday, January 26, 12:30 to 2:30.

Opening Words from Sun. January 5 by Kyle Nienhaus

January 5, 2020

Good morning. So, my family has been coming here since we’ve been a family; since we just got married, we started coming just after that; since we had Lorelai, and Kate has been our leader the whole time, she’s one of the reasons we came and we stayed and we love this place and when we heard she was leaving at the end of May were crushed, of course. But we’re very happy that James is going to be our new Leader, of course. Along the same lines I’ve been, about since we started coming here, working on a book, a philosophy book, hopefully, about Humanism and as I’ve been working on it I found this little passage I thought reminded me of Kate and what it means to be a Humanist Leader. It’s from my guy, Friedrich Nietzsche, you all know that… … Thank you.”


Happy winter cheer by Rich Feldenberg

December 17, 2019

This year the Winter Solstice will happen next Saturday. There is evidence that Celebration of the Winter Solstice goes back at least 12,000 years.  The celebration of its significance probably extends considerably further into the past than that. Long before any of the modern religions existed, our ancestors recognized this time of year as important and worthy of respect. It is the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest period of darkness. At winter solstice, long gone are the days of planting and harvest, of sun and warmth.

It’s not hard to imagine that in ancient times winter would have posed a huge threat to the survival of the entire community.  

Before a scientific understanding of the cycling of the seasons, it may have even seemed uncertain that things would ever warm and brighten again.

This might be a good symbolism for mid-life, as well. As a mid-life speaker, I can attest the feeling that the earlier days of Spring and Summer are memories–Growing up in the neighborhood, days at school, first jobs, raising small kids.

But mid-life is really an opportune time to look ahead. We know that as the Earth continues to orbit the sun, the daylight does come back and the cold days start to warm. By mid-life we have learned many valuable life lessons, and that gives us a huge advantage moving forward. We can choose to live better moving forward, make better choices, and have a better understanding of what things are really important.

One anonymous saying goes: “Instead of asking what was I thinking?  Breathe and ask yourself the kinder question: What was I learning?” This next year I’m looking forward to learning lots of new things, growing as a person, and showing love for my family in new ways.  

An anonymous source says this about the Solstice, “the winter solstice can be a beautiful reminder that we are all part of something larger, and that life is always changing and renewing.”

Happy Winter Solstice!!

Rich Feldenberg wrote these words to share some thoughts at Good Cheer (our winter festival) as the mid-life speaker in our Stages of Life question, What are you looking forward to next year?

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Opening Words from Sun. December 8 by Jim and Aidan Jordan: Accessibility at the Ethical Society

December 8, 2019

The reason Aidan and I first came and became members of the Ethical Society was that participating in Boy Scouts of America troop was not working for him and a friend told me that an alternative scout troop was forming that would probably be more inclusive and accommodating.

SEEK Core Values include: “Every person is important and unique; Every person deserves to be treated fairly and kindly.” The Ethical Society “Statement of Purpose” published on the plaque in the Foyer highlights “Supporting people through the stages of life”. Providing an accessible and supportive place is inherent in the concept of “Supporting one another through the stages of life” & treating all with dignity, respect, and kindness.


Ethical Society Considers Evolving Notions Of The Hero Ahead Of Star Wars Release

December 5, 2019

Jame Croft was interviewed today on St. Louis On the Air about his lecture “Star Wars and the Hero’s Journey

“We can learn so much about ourselves and about our culture,” Croft has said, “by exploring how heroism is portrayed in movies like ‘Star Wars’ – including how notions of what heroism is, and who can be considered a hero, have developed over time.”

If the program is no longer available on the NPR site you can listen to this archived copy.

Opening Words from Sun. December 1 by Travis Williams

December 2, 2019

Good Morning.

I’ve been a member of the Society for 6 years, my son Rush is turning 3 on Thursday, and today I’m celebrating my 1 year wedding anniversary to my amazing wife Trish.

I don’t know what my life would be like without this welcoming home. I came here after losing my wife Kelly and daughter Genevieve in child birth 7 years ago. I had heard of you all from my neighbor Carol across the street and read up on what to expect as a visitor on your website.


Opening Words from Sun. November 17 by Ann Eggebrecht

November 18, 2019

Good morning. I am ann eggebrecht and I want to tell you about litzsinger road ecology center.

I am a volunteer at Litzsinger Road Ecology Center which is a 34-acre property in Ladue, owned and funded by a family foundation and managed by the Missouri Botanical Garden.

As a volunteer, I work with children who visit with their school groups to be in nature and to learn about nature during three different seasons. Imagine yourself as a curious 6-year old, going to Deer Creek and discovering a turtle, picking up a crawdad, or discovering a fossil. As the 2-hour visit progresses, the students may touch the rough-leafed prairie cup plant and find evidence of other prairie plants and insects in the prairie. In the forest, there are sassafras, oak, hickory, and walnut trees, hidden centipedes, and a huge downed sycamore tree to climb on.

The teachers who bring their students to Litzsinger have participated in a training program on “place based education”, which emphasizes that students need opportunities to learn outside the classroom, and that most all students love to be in nature.

Once, there was a student who, at the beginning of the visit, declared that she did not like nature at all, but then, by the end of the visit said that she had learned a lot and felt more comfortable being outside.

As a volunteer, I like learning with the students and providing an opportunity for these children to experience nature. And we get to wear orange!

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Opening Words from Sun. November 10 by Andie Jackson

November 10, 2019

Good morning. When I started thinking about this month’s theme, Experimentation, I realized that there’s a difference between Experimentation and Experience. I think most of us tend to interpret our Experiences in ways that reinforce our preconceptions about ourselves and about the world. But when we’re experimenting, our minds are more open to the possibility that we’ll learn something new that might change us.

To experiment is to take a risk, to do something when we don’t know how it will turn out. We might think of our whole life as a series of opportunities to experiment. We don’t usually have to take those risks, but every time we don’t, we do miss a chance to learn and grow.

I’d like to read a poem I wrote last year about an imaginary person who lacks the courage to experiment.

He speaks in a slow drawl

The words take their time easing from his soul into the outer world.

They wait, the words,
in the anteroom of the soul,
stroll about and compare notes,
form alliances.

You see them, sometimes,
struggle to get out,
to pass the lips and be heard

but there’s the irrevocability to consider.

All in all, it’s safer to keep them there
in the anteroom, jostling one another
as the place fills up over the years
with so much left unsaid.

Andie Jackson
NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Opening Words from Sun. November 3 by Dara Strickland

November 4, 2019

Here on an autumn night in the sweet orchard smell,
Sitting in a pile of leaves under the starry sky,
Oh what stories we could tell
With this starlight to tell them by.
October night, and you, and paradise,
So lovely and so full of grace,
Above your head, the universe has hung its lights,
And I reach out my hand to touch your face.
I believe in impulse, in all that is green
Believe in the foolish vision that comes true,
Believe that all that is essential is unseen,
And for this lifetime I believe in you.

My name is Dara Strickland, my pronouns are she/her.


Art Show – Mark Witzling

October 28, 2019

My journey as an artist has evolved from representational oil painting toward pure abstraction. I became fascinated with abstract expressionism as a way to express myself creatively. To be “in the zone”. Painting is a solitary process and I find it meditative, and at times almost a form of prayer.

My source of inspiration is truly multi-layered. Intellectually, I tackle intangible concepts while technically I am visually building up layers of oil paint and excavating back into the layers to bring forth contrasts of colors and textures. While painting, I rarely use traditional brushes, instead working with a variety of tools like pastry scrapers, brayers, sticks, and even old credit cards to activate the surface. The result is often bold, sometimes subtle, and always, at least to me, optimistic, delightful, and engaging.

Much of my current work addresses the statement “Truth Matters”, exploring the loss of fact and truth in public discourse, exemplified physically by layers of paint obscuring deeper underlying layers yet always exposing enough to let us know the truth lies beneath.

I am pleased to have my work selected to appear at the Museum of Encaustic Art in Santa Fe in 2019. My work was published in the book Cold Wax Medium – Techniques, Concepts, Conversations, and in 2018 was selected to complete an artist residency in Orquevaux, France. I am always willing to talk about my work. Please feel welcome to contact me (

There will be a reception for Mark Witzling December 8, from 12:30-2:30 pm in the Foyer.  The Ethical Society will exhibit some of his work from December 8 through January 19.

2019 Ethics in Action Award: Joyce Best

October 24, 2019

A special Platform presenting the 2019 Ethical Society of St. Louis Ethics in Action Award to member Joyce Best, lifelong activist for peace, justice, and racial equality.

Joyce and her husband, Steve Best, worked together for many years on various social causes, and they raised their children at the Ethical Society of St. Louis. Joyce was an active member of the Committee on Racial Equality and was featured in the recent Missouri History Museum’s exhibit on the civil rights movement in St. Louis. She participated in sit-ins and other interracial actions, including helping to form the Freedom of Residence group in St. Louis.

Joyce was active in Mothers and Children Together, which sponsored visits of children with mothers in prison, and in her profession as a librarian, she helped establish a library at Pruitt-Igoe. She is a longtime active member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and with that group she helped establish a children’s peace camp in University City, planning and administrating the camp and working there each day as a volunteer for several summers. She also locally coordinates the national Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, which recognizes children’s books that promote interracial harmony and world peace.

Joyce’s Ethical Society work includes serving on the Board of Trustees, and years of active participation in the Sunday School, including as volunteer director; in many committees, notably the Ethical Action Committee, and single-handedly administering the Gilpin Fund utility assistance program; and serving in multiple roles in the Tuesday Women’s Association. She continues to be a strong and persuasive voice of conscience at the Society.

Listen to Joyce’s acceptance speech.

Read about previous awardees.

We’re Hiring an Associate Leader!

October 24, 2019

The Ethical Society of St. Louis seeks a full-time Associate Leader (equivalent to Associate Minister/Rabbi) to provide for the well-being of the membership, promote community involvement, and support organizational growth. The Ethical Society of St. Louis is a humanist congregation that provides the benefits of a traditional religious congregation without reliance on the supernatural or scripture. Founded in 1886, it is the largest Ethical Society in the country, with over 360 members. The congregation plays an active role in the community life of the St. Louis region through activism and service projects. Complete details about this opportunity and the Ethical Society can be found here.

Opening Words from Sun. October 13 by Donna Kniest

October 14, 2019
Category: ,

I am going to begin with a short true story:

Years ago we visited my brother-in-law in Virginia and for dinner my sister-in-law served fresh butter beans straight from the local farm. They were mouth watering. I had never tasted fresh butter beans before – NOW mind you, I am NOT talking about canned or frozen butter beans – only farm fresh – best picked that day.

So every year since, I have gone to Soulard market and bought butter beans which can only be found at one farm stand-Snarrs. I shell them and freeze them, and I am VERY STINGY with them -never serving them to guests so they last as long as possible.

Well, One day a couple years ago our 10 year old granddaughter was over for dinner. She is quite the little gourmet for her age, and , feeling GENEROUS, I made the butter beans – simmer 30 minutes with a pinch of salt and butter. She loved them and told me over and over how delicious they were and that she would have her Mom cook them. I explained how rare they were….

So, This year when I went to Soulard to buy them, the farmer told me the flooding had washed away the crop and there were none to be had. I WAS VERY SAD. Then a few weeks later, I got a text from my granddaughter including a photo and it said, “ Grandma, Mom and I found butter beans at Theis Farm “ – this is a farm up near UMSL right off HW 70 and Hanley Road. So, I raced to Theis Farm and bought all they had.

Now you are probably wondering why I am telling you this story: it’s because this incident brought to mind one of the major occurrences in life in which I believe – and that is —whatever you want, give it away and it will come back to you – some say ten fold. the Bible says in Galatians: “You reap what you sow.” I have seen this happen so often in my life but having only 3 minutes, I can’t tell more stories. The simplest example I can think of is when you smile at another – what happens? They smile back.

And I guess we should all be warned here not to frown, to judge or criticise or punch someone out as it can work both ways.

Yes, I believe that whatever you want, you must give it away.

So if you want to be loved, shower love on others. If you want to be included more and invited out more, invite others out for coffee or a walk, or to your home. If you want butter beans, cook butter beans for others….

Now I will be the first to agree with you that this doesn’t always happen immediately. You’ve all heard the saying “what goes around comes around?” But It doesn’t always come around fast enough, and Sometimes we think it will Never Come Around at all!!!

Think of a seed that is planted in a garden – one seed grows quickly and flourishes. Another seed is picked up by a bird and carried away. Sometimes the seed disintegrates and becomes part of the earth. But I believe that no seed ( actual or metaphorical ) is ever wasted; the good that you do today could even be met with total contempt, but that good goes out as a vibrational force into the ethers and is held in a kind of miracle escrow account. Deepak Chopra, a modern spiritual guru cleverly calls this “the great cosmic accounting system.” I am not a scientist by training, but it has occurred to me that this is like Newton’s 3rd law of physics which says “for very action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

So in the future I have vowed to be more generous in sharing my beans.

And I hope I have given you something to think about. And when Our program ends, turn to someone near you and smile.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.